6+ benefits of whole-body vibration

At the start of the new year, many people are looking for ways to improve their fitness levels. If you’ve walked into any gym lately, you might see a person standing or squatting on a vibrating platform and wondering if it’s the latest fad.

This vibrating platform is producing whole-body vibration (WBV), a form of passive exercise for improving neuromuscular performance. But can whole-body vibration replace other types of exercise to optimize fitness?

A brief history of whole-body vibration

The idea of using vibration to improve health dates back to ancient Greece, where doctors of the time used WBV on wounded soldiers. They created vibrations over wounds by plucking the strings of a bow-like instrument and believed it caused quicker healing.

In the 1860s, a Swedish medical student Jonas Gustav Zander believed vibration therapy could be used to build muscle and increase weight loss for his patients at the Therapeutic Zander Institute in Stockholm.

In the 1960s, Russian scientists believed they discovered a way to support muscle building and stimulate bone regeneration for their cosmonauts. In 1995, cosmonaut Valery Polyakov lived in space for 438 days using WBV and lost a minimum amount of bone density, which is shocking, having been in zero gravity for nearly 15 months. The following year, WBV was used to speed up the recovery of Russian athletes after Olympic events.

And, today, NASA continues to use vibration therapy to help prevent bone loss in astronauts.

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How does WBV work

WBV allows you to stand, sit or lie on the vibrating platform as it forces your muscles to contract and relax dozens of times each second. This rapid vibration increases the circulation and helps oxygen and nutrients flow to your tissues easily.

Think of it as giving your muscles a workout while you sit or stand in place. I’ve used WBV at my local gym in conjunction with other exercises on the platform, turning it into active therapy.

According to a study published in the Journal of Sports and Medicine, the most effective frequency for most people is a constant frequency of 60 Hz and the 4mm amplitude.

Advocates say that as little as 15 minutes a day, with a constant vibration of 60 Hz, three times per week may provide the following benefits.

  • Increased circulation and enhanced blood flow
  • Improve flexibility
  • Reduced muscle soreness post-exercise
  • Decrease the stress hormone cortisol
  • Improve bone density
  • Improved strength 
  • Boost weight loss while reducing abdominal Fat
  • Reduce the negative impact of stress

Conditions affected by WBV

Several smaller studies show promising results for people with certain conditions…

  1. Senior population — There has been a growing interest in using WBT to reverse the adverse effects of aging. Numerous small studies determining WBV training can reduce fall risk, balance, and postural control in seniors. The intervention was also effective in improving walking following stroke and in patients with knee osteoarthritis. However, further research is needed to expand a standardized protocol in other populations targeting gait ability.  
  1. Multiple sclerosis — Five studies determined WBT significantly improved muscle strength and functional mobility of the timed get-up-and-go test.
  2. Children and adolescents — A systematic review of the effects of WBV on bone density showed an improvement in lower limbs, lumbar spine and whole body. The study was more limited in postmenopausal women. 
  3. Athletes – Several studies looked into vibration therapy for improving anaerobic performance for endurance athletes including cyclists and runners. 
  4. Hormonal benefits for Males — One study showed a 7 percent increase in testosterone levels and a 27 percent decrease in cortisol (stress hormone), and a 460 percent increase in growth hormone. Another study concluded vibration exercise reduced circulating blood sugar levels. 
  5. Metabolic benefitsResearch at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University found that WBV reduces body fat and insulin resistance, while also improving muscle and bone strength in mice with a genetic tendency toward obesity and diabetes.

If you curious, check with your local gym and see if they offer WBV.

Sources:

Can whole body vibration training make you fit?  — Quickanddirtytips.com

9 Benefits of Whole body vibration you must know — Healthtide.com

Is whole-body vibration a good way to lose weight and improve fitness — Mayo Clinic

Whole body vibration for improving muscular strength in seniors — Researchgate

Is Vibration Training Good for your Bones? An overview of systematic reviews — Pubmed

Tracey G. Ingram, AuD

By Tracey G. Ingram, AuD

Tracey G. Ingram is a former Occupational Therapist, and presently a writer and Doctor of Audiology with more than 20 years of experience. She enjoys living a healthy lifestyle and feels health is a complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing. She practices intermittent fasting, Pilates, yoga, hiking and daily meditation. She loves to share her experiences with nutrition, supplements and eating organic foods to help others improve their health.